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IELTS tips

Top tips to help you pass the IELTS test

Listening test:

  1. Read the question carefully – they may look the same as practice tests, but could be different.
  2. Do not focus on words you do not understand – focus on what you DO understand!
  3. If you do not answer a question, do not waste time. Move on to the next question, or you could miss two questions!
  4. Make sure your spelling is correct.
  5. Make sure your grammar is correct – if the word you choose for a space does not fit grammatically with the word before and after the space, it is wrong.
  6. When a new speaker begins to talk, you will not here the answer to a question in the first 10-15 seconds. This is to give you time to get used to the speakers voice.
  7. Make notes while you listen. They may help you to complete the answer sheet later.
  8. Use CAPITAL letters for the first letter of a person’s name (first name and second name), street names (both words), cities, countries and names of businesses e.g. Mr John Smith, Blue Hill Insurance, 23 High Street, London, England.
  9. Write an answer for ALL questions, even if you guess. If you write nothing, you have no chance. If you guess the answer, you might be correct. One correct answer can be the difference between a 6.5 and a 7.
  10. If you cannot hear the audio very well, make sure you tell one of the invigilators immediately.

Reading test:

  1. Make sure that you understand the question before you look for the answer.
  2. Do not spend a long time on one passage. You have one hour to complete three passages, so don’t spend more than about 20 minutes on each passage.
  3. Do not try to read everything. You DO NOT have time! Read in order to find the answers to the questions.
  4. When you start, read the title, headings and look at any pictures there are.
  5. You DO NOT need any specialist knowledge to answer the questions. Don’t worry if the text is about bees or chemistry or space.
  6. Focus on the words you KNOW, not on the words you don’t know.
  7. If you do not understand a word, don’t worry. I may not be important.
  8. If you think a word will help find the answer but you don’t know the meaning – look at what kind of word it is. Is it a noun, adjective or verb? What kind of word comes before and after it. This will help you to guess the meaning.
  9. Always check your spelling and punctuation – does your answer need a capital letter?
  10. If you don’t know the answer to a question – guess! If you write nothing, you have no chance or getting a right answer.

Writing test – task 1:

  1. Don’t spend more than 20 minutes on this task. It is worth 40% of the writing test score.
  2. Spend one minute making a plan of what you are going to write.
  3. Always write an overview. You will lose marks if you do not.
  4. With line graphs, bar charts and pie charts make sure you use comparative language.
  5. Do not write your opinion. Only write about the facts on the paper.
  6. Make sure you write enough words. You will lose marks if you do not write at least 150 words. Similarly, do not write too many words.
  7. Pay attention to tenses – if the graph is in the past, use the past tense. If there is not time given, use the present simple.
  8. Decide which information is the important information. Look for the highest and lowest numbers, and large differences in information.
  9. Learn to recognize how long 150 words looks like in your handwriting.
  10. Give yourself time to read your work when you have finished – check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Writing test – task 2:

  1. Make sure you give yourself 40 minutes to answer task 2 – it is worth 60% of the test score.
  2. Spend one or two minutes making a plan of what you are going to write – this will make writing your essay much easier.
  3. Make sure you read and understand the question before you start writing anything.
  4. Make sure you answer the question – if it is an ‘agree / disagree’ style essay – do not write about advantages and disadvantages. Similarly, if it asks for cause and effects, do not write about whether you agree or disagree.
  5. Use paragraphs to organize your ideas. Generally, four or five paragraphs is common.
  6. Do not write a long introduction. It should be short and to the point and about 25-45 words.
  7. Attempt to use some more complex grammar – the examiner will give you marks for trying.
  8. Try to use complex sentences – these include grammar features such as the passive tense, conditionals, relative clauses, modal verbs and ‘what’ clauses.
  9. Use plenty of linking words to connect your ideas.
  10. Vary your vocabulary – try to use different synonyms to show the examiner you have a wide vocabulary range.

Speaking test:

  1. The speaking test is often after lunch. So, have a coffee to wake yourself up!
  2. Try not to use standard replies. Tell the examiner something interesting and be honest – they are not testing your opinion about things, they are testing your ability to communicate in English.
  3. Try to talk as much as you can. The examiner will tell you when they want you to stop talking.
  4. Do feel you have to answer immediately. Give yourself a second think about the question – this is only natural and native speakers do it.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ‘echo’ (repeat) the questions the examiner asks quietly to yourself. Again, this is very natural and it gives you time to think of what to say. It also shows the examiner that you heard the question correctly. (Don’t do it with every question though!)
  6. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification.
  7. In part three, the examiner will often ask you for predictions, explanations, suggestions, opinions or reasons. Practice using this kind of language at home.
  8. In part two, make sure you answer all parts of the question. You will lose points if you do not.
  9. Practice talking for two minutes so you can get used to how long it is.

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